Friday, August 27, 2010

A Photographer's Rant!

Businessman Communicating using a bullhorn or megaphone from a mountain peak.
A photographer's Rant: Sometimes you just want to get your voice heard!
The following is an actual  "Rant", if you will, from a photographer who posted it on a forum I am involved with. He agreed to let me share it on my blog provided he remained a "man of mystery" So be it.

I've transitioned into stock from assignment work and this year (2010) I've not shot any assignments at all. The world of assignments for me became a place of extreme stress and frustration as the new blood with their kit DSLRs and Clickpic websites flooded the market over the last few years with not a care in the world about licensing or copyright or charging anything like a workable fee just so they could get "in print". They have generally undermined the licensing business model so that I now get prospective clients telling me "I'm" unusual for not handing over copyright....!

What I can't stand in the modern advertising assignment world is how we photographers are essentially squeezed from both sides. We have to almost beg to get assignments, or offer up 20% to a rep, advertise in ridiculously expensive source books to be seen as 'hip', enter ridiculous competitions that the organizers extend deadlines on to maximize profit, yet that never lead to any real meaningful work. We have to run round with three or more ridiculously expensive snakeskin/zebra/armadillo bound 'folios' available at all times with our work printed on dried virgin's skin just to impress some acne-ridden twenty-something with the title of "creative director".

If he does commission us we have to fight unrealistic budgets, give away unrealistic rights, jump to someone else's timetable, work with pretentious a-holes on set and deliver work to unrealistic deadlines. Then we have to wait 90 days to get paid. Oh, and we have to be super grateful too.

The turnover can look good but the profit margin is the real story.and what cost to us of all that hassle and built in jerk-factor?

When I entered our illustrious industry it was partly because I enjoyed making images and partly because I enjoyed the idea of being my own boss. I found that increasingly with assignment work I lost the enjoyment of making images and I was never really my own boss. I found that client loyalty existed as long as the next estimate and if someone else was cheaper well.... you all know the ending.

With stock production I am, as much as can be expected, master of my own destiny. I can shoot when I want, take a day off when I want, and arrange my own productions so I can maximize profit. I treat stock as a pure business model and simply put, I shoot for money not pleasure. I have always said that if I could find another way of leveraging money from this industry I would do that too. This may still come. There's so much naive blood out there coupled with rich hobbyists that there's got to be money to be made. Good luck to the Chase Jarvis's & the Vincent LaForet's of this world, they've realized that for us all to survive we've got to do something alongside making images for a living. Lectures, apps, DVDs, seminars, courses, the list is endless.

While prices may be falling I'm a relative newbie in stock (3 years seriously and 5 years altogether) so I'm still working out what works and what doesn't. I wasn't shooting stock in the glory days so for me any sales are good sales (apart from PA of course...;)). The more I'm images I'm placing the more money I seem to make. So I'm continuing for now along the same trajectory while simultaneously reducing my expenditure as much as possible.

Success is a goal that each of us sets dependent on our expectations, our needs and wants and what we think is achievable. For me, being able to live by making images, or talking about making images and being master of my own destiny is a measure of success. I count myself lucky that I can pick up a camera and earn a living without having to be a corporate cube-farm slave like many of my friends. Sure they make more $$ than I do but...are they happy???!! ;)

My comments:  Where did he find a rep that would only take 20%?!!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stock Photography and a Nine to Five Job

A businessman juggles time in the form of an alarm clock, a clock, a stop watch, as sun dial and an hourglass in a stock photo about work, time management and deadlines.
No matter how you juggle your time, a stock photo career will require a lot of it!

Stock Photography and a Nine-To-Five Job
A lot of times you hear photographers saying that a photography career is way better than a nine-to-five job. I don’t know about them, but for me to achieve success as a stock photographer has required not a nine-to-five approach, but more like a eight-thirty to seven-thirty approach…or something similar. No matter how you juggle it, and whether you work better in the morning, or better in the afternoon or better at midnight, stock photography, as a career, requires systematic, consistent dedicated time…and a lot of it.

The Worst Is Behind Us…Maybe
I used to think I was going to get rich from stock…that was back twenty years ago when I would bring in $10,000.00 a month off of a hundred and fifty or so images. Now, of course, things have changed. I think, like a new car that has just been purchased and driven off the lot, the worst of the drop in stock photography value is behind us. We are settling into a new paradigm…micro stock prices are going up, RF and RM have taken huge drops, and none of the industry looks quite as rosy as it once did…even to a lot of micro stockers.  But perhaps the worst is behind us. I still very much believe that I can continue to make quite a nice living from stock photography (actually, a part of me is still planning to get rich at it...what gives with that?). But to do so will probably require that nine-to-five mentality…at least in the sense of having the approach and the discipline to regularly produce images and to produce images that are both unique and needed in the market.

Diversification and Regular Investment
In the other “stock” world, financial experts counsel diversifying and contributing to your investment regularly. The same advice applies to stock photography. To be successful to the point where you can earn a good living requires consistently producing images day in and day out…in researching the market to understand what to create, where to put it and in what business model...and so forth. I am always planning ahead, by at least a couple of months. Right now I am setting up a November shoot in Thailand. I have already shot the raw materials for the next two weeks worth of imaging, I am planning a shoot in three weeks that also involves motion, spent yesterday shooting images and getting props for photos that I probably will be able to start imaging on in a month or so…and oh yeah, I am kind of double-booked because I have enough greeting card images in the works to keep me busy through the end of October!

Being My Own Boss.
It isn’t just me either. A great example of a tremendously successful stock shooter who approaches the business with discipline and consistency is Tom Grill…who has told me that he plans his shoots a year in advance!  Everyday I think to myself how fortunate I am to be my own boss and to get to work when I want. Then I get to work by 8:30 in the morning and leave for home by 7:30 in the evening. When I get home I usually end putting in another hour or two of internet work before the evening is over.  In addition, rare is the week-end that doesn’t see me spend at least a half day working.  But hey, the number of hours I put in pale compared to the likes of another extremely successful stock shooter, Colin Anderson...who makes me look like a slacker!

What It Takes To Succeed In Stock Photography

That is what it takes to succeed in stock photography. Treating it as a business…with discipline and consistency. It takes putting your heart and soul into it. Succeeding in stock photography is not for the feint of heart. It requires monetary investment, faith that what you are doing will work, and huge amounts of time and energy. And I can’t imagine doing anything else that would reward me as well or satisfy me as much.